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'Ready to fight for civil rights': Sectoral leaders hold protest vs anti-terrorism law


JUNK ANTI-TERROR LAW. Protesters from different groups hold a protest march at the University of the Philippines Diliman on July 4, 2020, a day after President Duterte signed the anti-terror law. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Representatives from various sectoral groups came together in an online protest on Saturday, July 4, to denounce the anti-terror law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte despite public clamor against the controversial measure. 

The Movement Against Terrorism Act (MATA) led the online indignation protest which was joined  by various groups pushing for social movements, civil society and human rights defenders, faith-based groups, lawyers, and artists. (READ: Youth groups vow to fight implementation of anti-terror law)

Former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales pointed out that instead of listening to the call of the people, the government has prioritized silencing them, especially its critics.

“The law aims to end terrorism, it says, yet it is the state forces that perpetrate fear and violence on the people,” Rosales said.

She also argued that the law legalizes the suppression of human rights and degradation of democratic governance. 

“Democracy is founded on the foundation of separation of powers and checks and balances of these 3 branches of the government. But with Duterte's anti-terror law, the Executive has monopolized and taken over the function and control of Congress and taken over the function of the Court to identify who are the terrorists, and to explain what terrorism is all about,” Rosales added.

Challenging the law

Now that the anti-terror bill has been signed into into law, Rosales joined the calls to repeal it.

“This runs contrary to the rights enshrined in our Consitution and for this reason, the SC must declare it unconstitutional when we file a petition [to challenge the law]. The court now holds the duty to uphold the rule of law and maintain its freedom from the Executive. Akbayan will continue its opposition to the terror law in the courts and in the streets,” said Rosales, who is Akbayan chairperson emeritus.

She added that Akbayan and other sectoral groups are united to fight the anti-terror law and are once again “ready to fight for civil rights and defend democracy.” (READ:'We will not be silenced': Campus press denounce signing of anti-terror law)

“If the Duterte administration intends to stay in power without opposition, history will prove them wrong. They will not succeed," Rosales said, citing the fate of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos

Dinky Soliman said Tindig partylist supports moves to question the law before the Supreme Court.

Kami rin po ay sumusuporta sa panawagan na dalhin ito sa Korte Suprema at inaasahan natin na ang ating mga nasa Korte Suprema ay maninindigan sa sinumpaan nila na kanilang dedepensahan ang Saligang Batas (We support the call to bring this to the SC and we expect them to stand true to their vows to defend the Constitution),” Soliman said. 

She also urged lawmakers who retracted their vote in favor of the bill to lead in the petition for a repeal of the law. (READ: Critics ready to petition vs anti-terror bill – and Carpio is one of them)

Soliman also shared the sentiment of other groups that the government should instead focus its efforts on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Marami pa silang kailangan asikasuhin lalong-lalo na sa usapin ng kalusugan, pag-ayuda sa mga nagugutom, sa usapin ng pagbubukas ng ekonomiya. Ang pagsikil sa ating paninindigan na tayo ay pwedeng magpuna, pwedeng magsabi kung anong mali nilang ginagawa.

(They still need to address other matters especially in the areas of health, helping the hungry, and matters concerning the economy. [The law] is a curtailment of our rights to criticize or point out things that they did wrong.)

Lack of compassion

Activist and former senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc also joined the protest. She called out the Duterte government for its misplaced priorities and for its lack of urgency in responding to the needs of Mindanaoans affected by the Marawi siege until now.

“We are deeply disturbed by the lack of justice, sense of fairness, sense of compassion by a government that committed a rehabilitation program [for Marawi],” Gutoc said.

The May 23, 2017 siege led to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2019, supposedly to aid in the rehabilitation efforts. But according to Gutoc, they were still waiting for a true reintegration and rehabilitation effort for the last 3 years.

“Mula dito sa Marawi City, kami ay continuously after 1,200 days naghihintay ng totoong reintegration, rehabiltation na inuna pa ang anti-terror bill without accounting, inventory, and auditing of what happened to 3 martial law [extensions] dito sa Mindanao,” Gutoc added. 

(Here in Marawi City, we are continuously waiting, after 1,200 days since the siege, for a true reintegration and rehabilitation [program]. The administration prioritized the anti-terror bill without first doing an accounting, inventory and auditing of what happened to the three martial laws [extensions] in Mindanao.)  

Several groups are expected to challenged the anti-terror law before the Supreme Court, the first petition filed by a group of lawyers and civic leaders, including Howie Calleja and Brother Armin Luistro on Saturday. – Rappler.com 

Filipinos take the streets to protest against anti-terrorism law



JUNK. Protesters from different groups stage a protest march against the new anti-terror law at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, QC on July 4, 2020. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines –  Several youth and sectoral groups took their outrage to the streets Saturday, July 4, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-terrorism law in complete disregard of widespread opposition from the public. 

In an indignation protest held on Saturday at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, protesters were seen observing physical distancing as they carried placards and chanted slogans to express their strong condemnation against the law. 

Need for stronger voice

Gabriela Youth representative Clarice Palce stressed the importance for a stronger public clamor now that the controversial measure was signed into law. (READ: 'Ready to fight for civil rights': Sectoral leaders hold protest vs anti-terrorism law

She also urged the public to continue fighting for the democratic rights of Filipinos. 

“Normal na kabahan at matakot tayong mamamayan sa pagpapasa ng anti-terror law pero higit na mas kinakailangang tumindig ang sambayanan upang ipabasura ang batas na susupil sa ating karapatan,” Palce added. 

(It is normal for citizens to be afraid with the signing of the anti-terror law but we must now all the more to stand firm in our call to junk the law that would curtail our freedoms.) 

Palce also recalled the arrest of at least 20 individuals participating in a protest to celebrate Pride month and to oppose the then anti-terrorism bill. She added that the police's action was a preview of what would happen once the law takes effect.

Preview from the past

This is not the first time police arrested protesters during the pandemic, even if they did not violate quarantine rules. 

Six jeepney drivers from transport group Piston were also arrested for allegedly failing to practice physical distancing during a protest and supposedly resisting authorities. 

One of them, 72-year-old Elmer Cordero, also joined the indignation rally in UP.  He said that a lot of Filipinos, especially from the public transport sector experience hardships under the Duterte administration, especially since the proposal and passage of the anti-terrorism law. 

NO TO ANTI-TERROR LAW. One of the 6 arrested jeepney drivers Elmer Cordero of transport group Piston joins the mobilization in UP Diliman encouraging Filipinos to continue their calls to junk the anti-terror law that stifle poor's legitimate dissent. Photo from Philippine Collegian

Also called “Tatay Elmer” on social media, he fears the law would be used against the poor who only want to make a living. 

"Nagtipon lang kami sa kalsada noon para manawagan sa kapwa namin driver, kinulong na kami. Paano pa ngayon na pasado na?,” Cordero added. 

(We were just gathering in the streets to call on our fellow drives, but we were jailed. What more now that the bill has been signed into law?)

Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) National member Mimi Doringo echoed this, recalling the harassment and intimidation of state forces under the Duterte administration to silence the call of the urban poor that their fundamental rights and safety be respected.

Domingo expressed how Kadamany has been red-tagged and harassed under the Duterte administration. She also recalled the killing of longtime Kadamay leader Carlito Badion, who was found dead in Ormoc City last May 28. 

Badion was at the forefront of Kadamay’s occupation campaign of idle houses in Pandi, Bulacan in 2017. In 2018, Duterte threatened Kadamay with violence from the elite Special Action Force if they continued their bid to take over government housing units.

RESIST. A protester shows a placard expressing opposition against the signed anti-terror law. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Questionable provisions

Other sectoral groups questioned the law citing how it provided more harm to the people than good. 

Lawyer Krissy Conti of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties and National Union of Peoples' Lawyers cited two "troubling characteristics” of the anti-terror law: the vagueness and over broadness of its provisions. 

Several groups are expected to challenge the anti-terror law before the Supreme Court, the first petition was filed by a group of lawyers and civic leaders, including Howie Calleja and Brother Armin Luistro. 

Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy member Bryan Placido pointed out that surveillance, as sanctioned by anti-terror law, could be easier with classes now being migrated to remote learning setups.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite called the government out on its misguided priorities while demands such as mass testing remain unheeded. 

Groups such as Karapatan, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, League of Filipino Students, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines also joined the indignation rally. – with reports from Philippine Collegian and UPLB Perspective/ Rappler.com 

Groups demand immediate release of 8 arrested at anti-terror rally in Laguna



MANILA, Philippines – Several groups demanded for the immediate release of 8 of the 11 activists in Laguna who were arrested on Saturday, July 4, following their protest against President Duterte's signing of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said that 3 minors from the protest have been released to their guardians, while 8 are still detained. 

Among those arrested were members of rights groups Karapatan, Anakbayan Southern Tagalog, and other progressive groups, including a student and 2 alumni from University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The protesters had just concluded their program when cops apprehended them, with activists being forcibly dragged to the Cabuyao City Police Station based on a video posted by Anakbayan Southern Tagalog.

The protesters had been wearing masks and following physical distancing during their program.

Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said that Cabuyao Police Chief Reycon Garduque is still contemplating on the charges to be filed against the protesters, as of Sunday, July 5.

Ramifications of Anti-Terrorism Law

Several groups decried the arrest, with Gabriela warning how the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law will only “worsen human rights violations and state terrorism against the Filipino people who are demanding pro-people state actions such as free mass COVID-19 testing, economic amelioration, social protection and respect for human rights in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.”

The UP College of Science Student Council stressed the possible ramifications of the Anti-Terrorism Law on mass mobilizations in light of the detention of protesters dubbed the Cabuyao 11, who had practiced physical distancing and worn masks yet were subjected to a violent arrest.

“Not even 24 hours after the ATB was signed, state forces are already harassing everyday citizens exercising their legal right to protest. In their haste to silence criticism, it is clear that the administration fears the power of mass mobilization,” they said.

Kabataan para sa Tribung Filipino-UP Diliman chapter raised the same concern, highlighting how everyone is entitled to express their dissent as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.

Ang pagmomobilisa at pagpapahayag ng sariling saloobin ay mga karapatang isinaad sa ating Saligang Batas...Ang pangyayaring ito ay nagpapatunay na aabusuhin ng mga awtoridad ang kapangyarihan upang mapatahimik ang mga taong naninindigan sa tunay na karapatan ng bawat isa,” Kabataan para sa Tribung Filipino-UP Diliman said.

(The ability to mobilize and air out our thoughts are rights stated in our Constitution. What’s happening now proves that authorities will abuse their powers to silence people who are truly fighting for the rights of all.)

Bahaghari National slammed the rising trend of police-instigated violence and attacks against people’s peaceful protest “in the name of enforcing invented and unlawful lockdown restrictions.”

Just recently, at least 20 people at a Pride march in Mendiola, Manila were arrested despite observing physical distancing and other health protocols.

In Cebu, at least 8 were arrested at an anti-terror bill rally near UP Cebu that was staged after the then anti-terror bill hurdled  Congress. Although the rally had been peaceful, protesters were met by Cebu City police in combat gear and members of the SWAT team. 

Videos showed cops, some in plain clothes, entering the UP Cebu campus and chasing down students following the dispersal.

“In these violent confrontations, it was not activists who violate health protocols and human rights, but state authorities who manhandle participants. This impunity and brutality must end. The people have every reason to rise up against Duterte's terrorism,” said Bahaghari National.

Anakbayan Batangas lamented how the Anti-Terrorism Law had only been signed for a day yet police abuses have cropped up left and right. They urged others to continue to pressure the government to drop the measure and called for the release of the 11 who were detained during the recent anti-terror protest.

Simula pa lamang ito ng pang-aabuso sa bagong kapangyarihang taglay nila. Patuloy nating kalampagin ang gobyerno para ibasura ang Anti-Terror Law. Ang batas na ito ay walang nais na protektahan kung hindi yaon lamang mga naghahari-harian at may kapangyarihan. Hindi ang mga aktibista ang kalaban at lalong hindi terorista ang taong bayan,” Anakbayan Batangas said.

(This is just the start of the abuses that they will inflict with their newfound powers. Let’s continue to rattle the government to junk the Anti-Terror Law. This law only protects the powerful. The activists are not the enemies, and the citizens are definitely not terrorists.)

Safe spaces

Rallying support behind those arrested, the UPLB University Student Council called on UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez Jr to support and amplify their call to free Cabuyao 11.

In an open letter to the chancellor, the student council asserted the arrest of Cabuyao 11 was a “clear demonstration of how our own state forces abuse their power over dissenters expressing their critics to the current administration.”

“There is undeniably nothing wrong with protesting for our civil rights,” UPLB University Student Council added.

The student council urged the chancellor to side with the students and alumni who speak against abuses and oppression, and highlighted how UP students must “live up to the standards of being informed and educated about these issues.”

They also requested the UPLB administration to open the campus to the public, now that Laguna is under modified general community quarantine.

The UPLB University Student Council said by opening the campus to the public, there would be more free public spaces which people can use to air out and express their sentiments, calls and advocacies without the fear of being arrested, harassed or harmed.

“Given the current social and political environment in our country, it is very important that the students and the youth have a safe space,” they explained.

UP Diliman is currently open to the public, with peaceful protests being held in campus without military and state interference. (READ: Filipinos take to the streets to protest against anti-terrorism law)

How to help

Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said that the police is still keen to press charges against the 11 activists.

Karapatan Timog Katagalugan is accepting donations to pay for Cabuyao 11’s food, legal proceedings, medical support, and other humanitarian aid.

Those interested to help may refer to the details below:

– Rappler.com

Metro Manila to Sorsogon: Pedicab driver goes extra mile to find new job in hometown


ON THE WAY. Rommel Balbona makes the trip home from Caloocan City to Sorsogon City with his partner. All photos from Gabriel Paraiso Nolasco

MANILA, Philippines – Pedicab driver Rommel Balbona has had no income since Caloocan City was placed under quarantine in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the 25-year-old Balbona struggles to walk due to an orthopedic disability, he had been working as a pedicab driver in Caloocan City for 3 years. It was his family's main source of income.

Due to restrictions preventing pedicabs from operating during the quarantine period, Balbona and his partner Gina Cabalse relied on government assistance to get by. They had rice and canned goods, but going for months without income was becoming increasingly difficult.

Without assurances of finding a new job, Balbona decided to take the risk and leave Metro Manila to search for a job in his hometown, Sorsogon City.

Unable to afford transportation, Balbona opted to use his own pedicab to bring him and his partner to Sorsogon City instead.

"Kaya po ko nagbalak umuwi ng Sorsogon, gawa po na hindi na po kasi kumikita nang maayos sa pagpe-pedicab sa Caloocan. Kaya nag-isip na lang po na kung may makakatulong po sa amin do'n na mabigyan po nila ako ng kabuhayan, hindi na po ako babalik ng Manila," he explained. 

(I planned to go home to Sorsogon because I no longer earned much from driving my pedicab in Caloocan. I thought if somebody could give me livelihood back home, I would no longer go back to Manila.)

The long journey

On June 29, bringing everything they had in Caloocan City, Balbona and Cabalse started their 550-kilometer journey to Sorsogon City in their pedicab.

They had been on the road for 3 days when a member of the Bicycle Scouts Project, an initiative established by cyclists in the Philippines dedicated to helping those in need, spotted them in Alabang.

Upon seeing the handwritten signs on Balbona's pedicab, Bicycle Scouts member Gabriel Nolasco asked them to stop by the side of the road so he could give them food.

Balbona had written his destination on the front and rear of his pedicab to avoid getting flagged down by potential passengers.

Hoping to draw support for the couple, Nolasco took a photo of them and posted it on Facebook. It instantly went viral.

"Habang binabaybay namin ang Alabang, isang mabuting rider ang nagmagandang-loob na harangin kami at bigyan kami ng makakain at piktyuran habang nagpapadyak," Balbona said.

(While we were passing through Alabang, a concerned rider stopped and gave us some food, and took a picture of us as I continued to pedal.)

The post reached Karen Mercado, one of the team leaders of the Bicycle Scouts in Sorsogon.

Hoping someone in the area could help the family, Mercado shared Balbona's photos to the organization's Facebook group.

This quickly inspired members of the Bicycle Scouts Project to find the couple so they could safely reach Sorsogon.

As Balbona passed through Calamba City in Laguna, a fellow Bicycle Scouts member took the opportunity to give him P1,000 and get his contact details so the network could easily reach out to him. 

Soon enough, a group of Bicycle Scouts offered to tow the pedicab using their motorcycle from Calamba City to San Pablo City, where another batch of volunteers waited with a small delivery vehicle.

Bicycle Scouts founder Myles Delfin shared how the organization worked together to trace Balbona's location and assist the couple on their trip.

"This time around, what the community did was to spread the word and take local action wherever it was needed. The work of supporting them was passed on to different teams and members that were local to the places that Rommel and his family passed through," he said.

Finally home

In a span of 3 days, Balbona and Cabalse finally arrived in Sorsogon City at dawn of July 2, thanks to the help of the Bicycle Scouts Project. (READ: An extra push: Help pours in for man who bikes more than 12km for wife's treatment)

"Nagpapasalamat po ako sa mga rider na tumulong at naghatid sa akin," Balbona said. (I'm thankful for the riders who helped bring me home.)

Balbona and Cabalse are now in Sorsogon City's quarantine facility at Mercedes B. Peralta Senior High School for a 15-day quarantine.

Once that's done, Balbona is hopeful that he would find a new source of income. If given the chance to take on a better job, Balbona said he will not be coming back to Caloocan City.

"Sa mga may gusto po sana na tulungan po ako sa panghanapbuhay, pangarap ko po sana ang makabitan ng motor ang pedicab ko," he said. (To those who would want to help me earn a living, my dream is to attach a motorcycle to my pedicab.)

Those who wish to help Balbona may reach him through his mobile number, 09515452482. – Rappler.com

Martin Louise Tungol is a BS Development Communication student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He also works as a freelance writer and photographer, covering festivities and other local events.

[OPINION] Engineering care: A designer’s perspective as a COVID-19 backliner



As non-essential personnel in the first weeks of the pandemic, my thoughts were the same as everybody else: “Where the hell do I get a toilet paper?” I didn’t have a lot of selfless and noble ideas back then to fight the virus. I was more concerned about my trips being canceled, and the Black Widow film being rescheduled from May to November. Admittedly, I had brushed off COVID-19’s threat, thinking that I wouldn’t even have anything to contribute, not being in the medical field. Obviously, I was very wrong. 

As the weeks went by under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the number of COVID-19 cases steadily climbed. The government continued to roll out cash assistance programs and national policies to combat the pandemic and its consequent tragedies. But implementation was a different matter altogether.

As lapses in the execution of these policies became evident, the public grew restless. Soon enough, hospitals cried out over their lack of necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), public transport drivers begged for work, and small business owners filed for bankruptcy. Complaints rolled in, creating an online ruckus on crisis mismanagement and the unjust decrees that bare latent interclass tensions within Philippine society.

Soon after, the fear of hunger overwhelmed the fear of the disease and the public took the streets. Seeing how the pandemic has brought the country to the brink of disorder, many private citizens were forced to mobilize and assist in any way possible. Makers, designers, engineers, students, artists, weavers, and more joined the fight and entered the pandemic ring. These non-medical practitioners constitute the country’s COVID-19 "backliners." (READ: 3 Filipino-made medical apps to help combat coronavirus)

Collaboration is the cure

My backliner journey started when I joined UP Manila’s Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology Laboratory (SIBOL) team of tech professionals, brought together to collaborate for solutions to the "invisible enemy." It is basically a think tank composed of big names in the research industry, led by Dr. Edward Wang.

Working and exchanging ideas with these multidisciplinary experts was really exhilarating. But the in-depth discussions and quick tossing around of propositions could make one lose track of what is happening, especially given the complexities of remote communication (which we were forced to adopt, given the state of affairs).

Personally, I believe this is one of the main challenges of ideation in the pandemic setting. As a product design teacher, I always tell my class that design sprints with the potential user or target market need to be personal and intimate. This allows the designer to get as much information as possible from the client, including the non-verbal ones. Online meetings and interactions are also prone to miscommunication, which could easily wreck the brainstorming process. But how do we make online ideation intimate and personal? How do we transcend virtual borders and create a useful designer-client connection?

Here’s what I found out: given the limitations of the type of communication, it is important to compromise a little bit on the designer-client idea exchange and focus on one-way idea transfer. What this means is full reliance on the experience and knowledge of medical professionals regarding what they need and fully letting go of that tenacious engineering/design trait known as the “hero complex.”

Don’t be a hero

Most engineers and designers suffer from what is known as the hero syndrome. They go marching into places with real-life technical challenges like rural communities, small hospitals, and barrio schools with chests puffed out, exclaiming “We’re engineers from *insert random University/College* and we’re here to solve your problem for you!” This is exactly how it goes for most engineering projects I know, true story.

But here’s the thing: a three-day immersion will never match the years of experience locals and residents have. They face those challenges every day, so they probably know the most fitting solution, a fix that can easily be adopted given their culture and condition. The biggest insult you can throw their way is to take the helm and steer their boat. Quite possibly, they simply lack the capability to shape up their ideas into an actual product/process. What they need is someone who can realize their solutions, someone who can listen and retell their story. (READ: [OPINION] Putting the 'community' back in the enhanced community quarantine)

The same applies when engineering or designing for health care. As a backliner, it would be detrimental to the communication and design process for us engineers to take the lead, more so given the non-ideal online setup of the design sprint. Our limited knowledge and experience with medical processes and culture would have prevented us from making appropriate solutions. Listening to the doctor’s needs became key. Essentially, the entire design process is just a retelling of their story and a strengthening of their narrative. 

Designing for care is designing for diversity

As some of the projects proposed started rolling out, I discovered that healthcare engineering means considering diversity and inclusion without exception. As our team designed and fabricated the “Sanipod: Self-contained Disinfecting Cubicle” alpha prototype, we went through a few (a lot, really) of revisions, particularly on the height and width of the cubicle and the positioning of the spray nozzles.

This is actually nothing new; after all, design is an iterative process. But as I became exceptionally frustrated re-drilling holes and re-positioning the piping system, I began to realize what we were missing. We were always thinking of the AVERAGE. We asked questions like “What is the average height of Filipino males and females? What is the average width of the potential users?” There is nothing wrong about this per se. If truth be told, all engineering and design classes will teach you to always consider the standard user when developing a product.

However, medical products are on an entirely different level. It’s not about accessibility for most; it’s about accessibility for all. If we had designed the Sanipod based on the standard, those with proportions at the extremes would never be able to fit in there. The medical professionals I worked with, Dr. Cathy Co and Dr. Edward Wang, made me realize how limiting my design thinking was and showed me a whole new way of designing for diversity and inclusion. 

Move slow and DO NOT break things

Being a product developer, it is important to move quickly as new products get created every day. I also teach my students that at the initial phase of the ideation process, quantity is more important than quality. “More is always better,” I advise my class. I even try my hardest to make the classroom as accepting of mistakes and bad designs as possible. This way, they will be able to easily identify the best among the rest. We were living by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s now famous motto, “Move fast and break things,” which means to innovate as fast as possible, welcome mistakes, and grow rapidly by taking risks.

This design motto does not apply to the healthcare industry, however. In contrast, it does not allow you to take risks when inventing and innovating. Why? Because in the medical industry, it is always a matter of life and death. Everything, even the smallest details, must be carefully thought of, including how the product can be integrated into hospital operations before letting the product out. Believe it or not, our alpha prototypes were already functional and ready for deployment given the cautious scrutiny of the medical professionals we worked with. This way, I learned that there’s no such thing as "too much care" in healthcare. (READ: 4 new tech solutions deployed by DOST to fight coronavirus)

Finally, working with all these amazing people under the SIBOL team has taught me that designing for healthcare is more demanding than any other sector and industry I’ve had previous experience in. A designer or engineer looking towards a career in the medical industry must charge head-on with an open mind and an optimistic attitude. Recognize that the stakes are always higher — and the potential outcomes, even more so. – Rappler.com

Jason “Pech” Pechardo is a Materials Engineer who teaches Product Development at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. 

ABS-CBN employees to lawmakers: Renew franchise so we can continue to serve


MANILA, Philippines – They're more than just numbers. 

Much has been said about the 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN who will be affected in case the broadcast giant's franchise renewal gets the thumbs down from Congress. 

The Congress this week resumes its hearing on the bills that would renew ABS-CBN's franchise, which expired last May 4. Despite assurances from the National Telecommunications Commission that the network would be granted a provisional permit allowing them to operate past this date, ABS-CBN was asked to immediately cease operations on May 5. (READ: ABS-CBN employees petition House to grant network new franchise

But who are the 11,000 employees anyway? How have their lives been changed by the network? And how will the Congress' decision on the network's franchise affect their future? 

ABS-CBN employees, including talents and longtime staff, broke their silence on social media over the weekend to share personal stories, in a bid to put a human face on the 11,000 figure often mentioned in various hearings, news reports, and social media posts. In the past, employees have generally withheld their comments on the ongoing case, citing network policy. (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal)

Personal stories

Many employees took to social media to share their story. Some of them are talents while others have been employed by the network for decades already. Some of them worked behind the cameras while others are personalities known to the public because of their television appearances. (READ: Without a franchise, ABS-CBN may start laying off workers by August

One of them is Carlo Katigbak, an ABS-CBN talent involved in scriptwriting, and the namesake of the network's CEO. He shared how, even as a talent, he enjoyed several benefits from the company, including health plans, loan services, and opportunities to travel and study.

'LABAN KAPAMILY'. ABS-CBN supporters put up a freedom wall at the network's headquarters in Quezon City as Congress continues hearing on its franchise renewal this week. Contributed photo

"Kagaya ng mga paulit-ulit nang nasabi at napatunayan with proper documentation sa past hearings: Compliant ang ABS-CBN sa BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), sa SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), at sa DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment)," he said.

(Like what has already been reiterated and proven with proper documentation in past hearings: ABS-CBN is compliant with the BIR, SEC and DOLE.) 

Katigbak also admitted that the network – like any other organization – could still improve on a number of issues. Supporters have argued in the past that if there are any violations, ABS-CBN should be penalized accordingly, not shut down. 

Irish Vidal, another employee who is part of the network's news team, shared how the network not only widened her career horizon but also helped her during times of personal need.  

"Napagpaaral ko ang pamangkin ko, nakakapag-abot ng tulong sa pamilya ko, halos taun-taon noon nasa ospital ang lola ko hindi ko alam kung saan ako kukuha ng panggastos pero sa tulong ng pangalawa kong pamilya, naitataguyod ko sila," Vidal shared. 

(I managed to send my relatives to school. I was able to support my family. When my grandmother was in the hospital almost every year, I didn't know where to get the money, but with the help of my second family, I was able to help them.)

'To be in service'

All of the employees who shared their personal stories online made the same appeal to the lawmakers who will decide on the network's franchise – and consequently the future of its 11,000 employees: Renew ABS-CBN's franchise so they can stay in "service of the Filipino people," as the network's slogan goes. 

"Kung wala ang ABS-CBN, hindi ko alam paano ko masusuportahan ang sarili ko, lalong-lalo na ang pamilya ko. Kaya ang tanging hiling at dasal namin ay bigyan pa kami uli ng pagkakataong makapagbigay serbisyo sa ating mga kababayan," Vidal said.

(Without ABS-CBN, I don't know how else I'll be able to support myself and my family. That is why my only hope and prayer is to be given the opportunity to continue serving the public.) 

Referring to the lawmakers, Katigbak said: "Sana talaga usigin sila ng konsensya nila in favor of the 11,000-plus workers and their households. In favor of press freedom." (I hope they will listen to their conscience and decide in favor of over 11,000 workers and their households. In favor of press freedom.) 

Below are other online posts made by ABS-CBN employees, using the hashtag #IbalikAngABSCBN and #DefendPressFreedom:


[OPINYON] Ang buhay sa lansangan ay buhay ng pakikibaka ni Ka Elmer Portea



Tsuper ng dyip, tagapagsalita ng STARTER, pangrehiyong balangay ng PISTON, at kaanib ng Anakpawis Party-list si Ka Elmer. Gaya ng iba pang drayber, na maagang tamaan ng sakit sa tuhod, balakang, at iba pang bahagi ng katawan, napapagal rin ang katawan niya dahil sa maghapong byahe. Idagdag pa diyan ang pagpapagal na bahagi na ng hamon ng paglilingkod bilang tagapagsalita ng sektor ng transportasyon. Bagamat sa Laguna ang ruta ni Ka Elmer, nakakaabot siya sa iba pang lalawigan ng Timog Katagalugan para tulungan at turuan ang kapwa nya drayber at maliliit na opereytor sa kinahaharap na usapin sa transportasyon. Abot din siya hanggang Kamaynilaan sa pagsama sa mga pagkilos para ipagtanggol ang mamamayan. (READ: 2 Piston jeepney drivers positive for coronavirus)

Maaasahang lider. Suki ng mga lehitimong pagkilos. Mahusay sa paggampan ng tungkulin. Ganyan si Ka Elmer. Tulad ng libo-libong dyip at mga drayber nito – lagi nating hinahanap at kinakailangan; hindi tayo binibigo. Pero gaya rin ng lahat ng "hari ng lansangan," hindi pinahahalagahan at mababa kung turingan, lalo na ng gubyerno ni Rodrigo Duterte. 

Sa kalagitnaan ng pandemya, ipinagdiwang ni Ka Elmer ang kanyang ika-50 kaarawan. Isang taon na naman ng pakikibaka at pakikipagsapalaran ang nagdaan. Isang taon – na ang dalangin niya ay lakas para patuloy na maglingkod sa bayan, at patuloy ring lakas ng nagkakaisang mamamayan. Habang nagdiriwang ng kaarawan, ang paggunita ng nagdaang panahon ay may kaakibat na pag-aalala sa nagdurusang mga drayber at komyuter na pinababayaan na ng ating pamahalaan. Kaisa siya sa matinding galit natin sa pagpapasa ng Anti-Terror Law at iba pang patakaran na inuna pa ng gubyerno sa halip na kalingain ang taumbayan. Kaisa siya sa ating daing: Bakit nga ba ang mga "hari ng lansangan" nauwi sa panlilimos ng pangangailangan! (READ: IN PHOTOS: ‘My jeepney, our home’)

Hulyo 4. Isang araw matapos lagdaan ni Duterte ang Anti-Terror Act of 2020, sumama siya sa pagkilos sa harap ng Pulo Barangay Hall (Cabuyao City, Laguna) kung saan halos nakakampo na ang mga militar ng 2nd Infantry Division mula nang tumindi ang pandemya at bago pa man ang pagratsada sa Mababang Kamara ng HB 6875. Minamananan at nililigalig nila ang malapit na Anakpawis Timog Katagalugan Office. 

Sa gitna ng ulan, nangahas si Ka Elmer kasama ng iba pa na mariing tutulan ang pagsupil sa karapatan at paggunaw ng natitira pang demokrasya sa bansa. Nang matapos ang kanilang programa, inilabas na nga ng pulis at militar ang mas matinding bangis ng pasismo dahil sa Anti-Terror Act. Sinugod ng mga pwersa ng estado ang mga raliyista.

Sinakal si Ka Elmer. Kinaladkad sa gitna ng kalsada. Dinahas. Sugatan ang kanyang tuhod, binti, at braso.

Maggagabi na noon. Ilang oras na lang, curfew na naman. Sinamantala ng sandatahang pwersa ang pagkakataon para dakpin sila at ipiit. Hibang nilang nilalayon na pahinain ang lakas ng katawan at kalooban ni Ka Elmer at ng mga aktibista. 

Pero nagdaan ang mahigit 8 oras, at pinag-iisipan pa rin ni Lt. Col. Reycom Garduque kung ano ang ikakaso sa kanya at sa 10 pa niyang kasama. Samantala, sa inilabas na medico-legal at mga niresetang gamot sa kanila, malinaw ang ebidensya ng nangyaring karahasan laban sa kanila. May 24 oras na silang nakapiit ngayon, at binawalang kausapin ng mga dalaw.

Walang ibang tinuturo ang karanasang ito kundi ang katotohanan ng paghahari ng tiraniya at terorismo ng estado sa ilalim ni Rodrigo Duterte. Ang katotohanang kung sino pa ang nagtatanggol ng karapatan ay sila pang pinarurusahan at sinusupil. Ang katotohanang kung sino ang maysala at nasa awtoridad ay silang malayang nakakagawa ng kanilang kabuktutan. Ang katotohanang sa ilalim ng rehimeng ito, matagal nang pinabayaan at gusto nang kitlan ng buhay at kabuhayan ang mga tsuper at maliliit na opereytor.

Tama na! Labis-labis na! Wakasan na!

Tayo naman ang hinahamon ng panahon. Ipagtanggol natin ang siyang nagtatanggol ng atin. Ipagtanggol natin si Ka Elmer! (READ: How to help jeepney drivers affected by the coronavirus lockdown)

Sama-sama nating isulong ang karapatan at kagalingan nating mga tsuper, opereytor, at iba pang nasa sektor ng transportasyon. Isanib natin ang ating lakas sa mga komyuter at lahat ng iba pang mamamayan sa pagsulong ng kalayaan at demokrasya. – Rappler.com 

Kobi Tolentino is a student of AB Philosophy. He advocates for the junking of the Anti Terror Act of 2020 as he believes it will lead to increased persecution against dissenters like him and the Cabuyao 11.

Editor's note: As of posting, Ka Elmer and his peers have been released for preliminary investigation.

[OPINION] Pinoy BL, censorship, and problematic LGBTQ+ representation



Following the success among Filipino audiences of the Thai BL (Boys Love) series 2gether, numerous media outlets are starting to create Filipino BL series to please the newfound market. The list of upcoming series includes Darryl Yap’s Sakristan, Petersen Vargas’s Hello, Stranger, Xion Lim’s #MyDay, and Ivan Andrew Payawal's Gameboys, among others. 

I have seen efforts by film producers and writers to veer away from the parloristang bakla narrative, where gays are portrayed as comic relief just starving for the male species. However, when it comes to BL series, how gay characters are depicted there poses another challenge. They are presented as eye candy, with masculine features and fit bodies, charming male leads without a trace of body fat or effeminacy. This poses a problem, as young LGBT viewers could then view themselves as “too ugly to be gay,” or worse, believe that they do not deserve the same “love” because of their appearance. (READ: 'Tolerated, but not accepted': Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination)


I taught media and communication for a year at a Dominican-run Catholic institution before transferring to the blue Jesuit school. As a partial requirement, I instructed my students from the Dominican school to create a short film about a social or political issue. I stressed the importance of media representation, that it was better for them to create stories on the lives of the least represented.

In 2019, one of the student-made films, Hanggang Dulo, bagged awards in an intra-school student film competition. The film was not perfect. It had its flaws. But I said to my students that what mattered more was that they lent a voice to the least represented in the society. In the film, they shared how young LGBT members cope in relationships where one partner is born with HIV. (READ: What LGBT kids need to hear)

After winning Best Picture, I gave my students the go-signal to publish their film on YouTube. I was usually hesitant to let students post their films on the internet as I wanted to reduce digital footprints and not be held accountable for their works. However, their film was an exception, as I wanted more people not only to watch it, but also spread its message – to end the stigma towards people living with HIV/AIDS, and to get tested. As of writing, the video garnered 750,000+ views and more than a thousand comments on YouTube. Not bad for a student-made film.

However, one of my colleagues remarked that the films submitted by my students were “hindi pang-hayskul” (not suited for high school students). She might have been echoing former MTRCB chair Marissa LaGuardia's classification of homsexuality as “an abnormality of nature." She also pointed out how some of my students were even minors. She said that they might be too young to comprehend issues like same-sex relationships, rape, and even death as subjects of films. I understood her concern, because I was still bound to the rules and norms of a Catholic institution. However, I remained firm with my philosophy to be more liberal, while teaching my students to be ethical content producers, and not to be exploitative in their own writings.


Communication theorist George Gerbner argues that “the more time people spend 'living' in the television world, the more likely they are to believe social reality aligns with reality portrayed on television.” Although Gerbner’s cultivation theory is debunked by most theorists, as most audiences have shifted from getting information on TV to getting it on the internet, content producers of Pinoy BL series still have a responsibility to be more inclusive.

My cis female cousin who is a 'BrightWin,' or a fan of 2gether's main actors, asked me to recommend similar series, and I shared with her one of the Thai series I admired, Diary of Tootsie. My cousin watched a few episodes and was lukewarm towards it. She said that some characters from Diary of Tootsie were not as "visually pleasing" as 2gether's Bright Vachirawit or Win Metawin. 

I hope that Pinoy BL series go beyond this hype, serving a greater purpose and injecting pressing social and political realities. Who knows? The next Pinoy BL series might feature a gay character who is plump (or in LGBT lingo, a “chub”) or an “effem” person with a disability. – Rappler.com

Patrick Ernest C. Celso, 23, is a licensed professional teacher from Makati City. He teaches media and communication at Ateneo de Manila University. He is finishing his graduate degree in Creative Writing and obtained an English Education degree at the University of Santo Tomas.

[OPINION] Refugee protection and the threats of the Anti-Terrorism Law



In 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that around 26 million individuals were forced to leave their countries to seek protection in other states. For many refugees and asylum seekers, accessing asylum in another territory could be more challenging than leaving one’s home country. Persons applying for refugee status could experience harsh journeys going to their country of destination. They may also face detention and imprisonment in their receiving countries. Worse, they could be forcibly deported to their countries of origin (refoulement), where they might again face threats to their lives and safety.

The Philippines is the first Southeast Asian country to sign the Refugee Convention. Since the early 20th century, the Philippines has been accepting asylum seekers onto its shores. At present, around 690 refugees are living in the country, and they are provided with state protection that will allow them to enjoy rights without fear of being forcibly deported to their countries of origin. The Philippine government has also introduced policies to assist refugees towards self-reliance and integration into their host communities. (READ: When the Philippines opened its doors to Jewish refugees)

This protection enjoyed by persons of concern, however, could be under threat now that the controversial Philippine Anti-Terrorism bill has become a law.

Section 11 of the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 defines foreign terrorists as those persons who travel outside their countries for the purpose of planning or executing terrorist activity in the Philippines. While the law aims to protect the country against terrorists coming from abroad, it does not provide safeguards for innocent persons seeking asylum in the Philippines to not be wrongfully classified as terrorists. This is particularly a concern for asylum seekers coming from countries identified as "high-risk states" or terrorism hotbeds. Proscription of terrorists from foreign juridictions is also allowed under this measure. This has implications for persons who were unjustly tagged as terrorists by their governments, as they could be identified as terrorists through this method. Being tagged as a terrorist could deprive legitimate asylum seekers the opportunity to safely access refuge in the Philippines.

Before an asylum seeker is granted refugee status, his application must first go through a refugee status determination (RSD) process to ascertain the persecution or threats of harm experienced by the asylum seeker in the country he fled from. This process requires a thorough assessment of political and social issues in the countries of origin before asylum seekers can be classified as refugees in the Philippines. The current RSD procedure also has its mechanisms in determining whether an asylum seeker has committed acts that would fall under Article 1F, or the exclusion clauses, of the Refugee Convention, which could bar one’s application for asylum. (READ: Philippines grants asylum to Iranian beauty queen)

This national asylum mechanism, however, could be undermined by the proposed powers of the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) to designate terrorists. Section 25 of the Anti-Terrorism Law empowers the ATC to designate persons as terrorists upon finding of probable cause of their intent or commission of a terrorist act. Given this provision, the ATC could designate a person based on the intelligence that it collected, regardless of the information coming from RSD assessments. The vague and overbroad definition of “terrorism” under the Act could simply be used to justify the designation. This creates a risk that an asylum seeker who suffered legitimate persecution in his country of origin may not be able to access refuge in the Philippines, as his designation will hinder the asylum application.

Interestingly, the law did not indicate a mechanism where the existing RSD process can inform the designations made by the ATC, should the person in question be an asylum seeker. The measure also did not mention how it can be harmonized with the current RSD process. It also did not provide a clause recognizing the primacy of non-refoulement (prohibition on forced deportation) as a state policy.

Persons already identified as refugees in the Philippines may also face a grave situation should they be wrongfully designated as terrorists. Though they enjoy the same protection as Philippine citizens, refugees in the country remain a vulnerable population. A designation of them as terrorist could cause the freezing of their assets, and would have implications on their freedom of movement, livelihood, and access to humanitarian support.

Considering the infirmities of the Anti-Terrorism Law, it could now be more challenging for asylum seekers and refugees to access protection in the country. Fleeing persecution from their home countries is already a challenge for refugees and asylum seekers. Accessing and maintaining safety and security in another country should not cause more suffering to these persons of concern.

The Anti-Terrorism Law as it stands now fails to take into consideration the struggles and situation of refugees and asylum seekers in the country. Worse, the law could even expose these persons of concern to further harm with its infirm definitions and provisions. Ending terrorism is important in achieving a peaceful society, but the path to eliminating terrorism should not curtail people’s rights and freedoms, including refugee rights.

Refugees and asylum seekers fled their countries in search of a safe haven. The Philippines has always been one for them, and it should remain as such. – Rappler.com

Reinna Bermudez is OIC Chief of the Commission on Human Rights' Center for Crisis, Conflict, and Humanitarian Protection. She is also Juris Doctor student at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

[OPINION] Being gay in an all-girl Catholic school



Towards the end of Pride Month this year, the hashtag #MCHSDOBETTER began a whole new Twitter movement, which led to students criticizing the management of their respective Catholic schools. Instances of harassment, homophobia, and several other forms of discrimination that took place within campus were thoroughly narrated by both alumni and those currently enrolled. I would like to use this platform to highlight the internal homophobia (which is only a small portion of the many systemic problems) inside my school — which most people might disagree with or define as “tolerable.” (READ: #MCHSdobetter: Groups condemn sexual misconduct of teachers, call for justice)

Just to clarify; I am enrolled in a school wherein being part of the LGBTQ+ community is generally accepted by many despite being under a religious institution. I am extremely grateful to have been raised in environments, both in school and at home, that have allowed me to freely express my sexuality and own my preferred identity. However, this is not the case for most Catholic schools nor is it the case for some of my schoolmates. There are still numerous forms of systemic problems that need to be (not necessarily called out, but instead:) recognized by others.  

I have been enrolled in the same Catholic school for over 13 years now. Typical school rumors have labeled me as the “resident gay person” in the past – when everyone was 10 years old and nobody had come out about their sexuality yet. It was a basic middle school story — people would make up rumors about me being gay, assume my sexuality because of my haircut, etc. I am more than glad that these became less prevalent as more people started coming out as all of us became more mature.

Soon, my batch will be entering its senior year (Grade 12), and the community is very different now. Students have gradually become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Some people would even call it a “safe space” to express their sexuality, since several people come from families that refrain them from doing so at home. In my opinion, the campus has become a safer place as compared to other environments, but still, it has several problems that need to be addressed. (READ: [OPINION] Drawing the line on sexual harassment in all-girls schools)

It’s more than just CL teachers being homophobic — because that is no surprise at this point. Instead, it is the community not being able to recognize the system for its mistakes, which eventually became “normal” for the school to do. When the student handbook requires everyone to get haircuts at a certain length and bans students from cross-dressing during events, when teachers shame gay students during class, when trans students are being outed to their parents, and when all topics related to the LGBTQ+ community are being censored from the curriculum, people are angered but are never listened to.

Much ruder incidents have happened with overly conservative CL teachers, but the instances of shaming and outing I mentioned were actually done by different English and STEM teachers over the years. I have been on the receiving end of some of their insulting words, and I know others also receive them regularly. These incidents happen often and become regular concerns — which eventually turn, instead, into a tolerated culture.  

I am thankful to have grown up with my schoolmates in probably the most progressive generation so far. It has felt like the largest LGBTQ+ community I could ever ask for. These words, with the intention of fighting for gay rights, would have never come out of my mouth if not for the education offered by my school (from Social Sciences classes) and the enriching conversations with my schoolmates who knew more about the LGBTQ community than I did (especially in middle school when I barely knew what the letters meant). However, having a support system is not as powerful as it sounds if the structure it resides in is hesitant to change. Students made the first step a long time ago. The student body needs the system to do the same. (READ: MCHS family council 'alarmed' by high number of sexual harassment complaints)

This is not an article exposing the school, specific teachers, nor the academic curriculum of Catholic schools as a whole. I am writing this for several reasons, including sharing the perspective of a Catholic school student in the LGBTQ+ community, and letting others recognize the structural deficiencies that have been tolerated for generations.

I understand that religious institutions will have to remain religious, so I personally do not hold any anger or grudges against them. However, religious institutions can still be religious without discriminating against minorities that simply disagree with its beliefs. If a curriculum teaches its students about basic human rights, the school should also be able to implement these rights in the handbook. 

P.S. I’ve never really come out about my sexuality before because it’s always been such a personal topic for me. People have just been assuming my sexuality because of all the rumors made over the years. I guess this article also serves as my “coming out” as well. – Rappler.com

Charlie is an incoming Grade 12 student under the Humanities and Social Sciences strand of an all-girl school. She spends her leisure time engaging in competitive debating, filmmaking, and serving youth organizations, which have all helped her learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and formulate her own identity. 

[OPINION] In the service of the Filipino



In October 1953, the late Vero Perfecto and I hosted the first local TV broadcast over DZAQ-TV Channel 3 (AQ for Antonio Quirino), the first commercial TV station in the Philippines. 

Our maiden broadcast was done at the residence of Judge Antonio Quirino on Guevara Street, San Juan, where a garden party was in progress. We had no program scripts, no studied preparations whatsoever. Vero and I agreed that we would just wing it and hoped that our errors and fluffs would be few and far between.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, we had many wrong cues but Vero was a master of improvisation and somehow I managed to ride along. Using only one black and white orthicon camera mounted on a tripod, our TV technician panned the camera from left to right all evening to show the more than 300 socialites gathered. Without a floor director to give us signals, our cameraman would pan back to Vero and me as we made one-liner jokes a la Bob Hope. We were quite hilarious.

It was a soft opening without any fanfare. There was no press conference or special program with dancing girls to mark the first official telecast the way new product launchings are done today. We had 10 national advertisers to sponsor the show even though there must have been only 200 black and white TV sets throughout the country at the time.

We capped the evening’s program with a children’s show and some classical kundiman songs rendered by a popular soprano whose name I cannot remember. We signed off at around 9:30 pm after inviting the guests and televiewers to "tune in again at 6 pm tomorrow for that classic movie The Count of Monte Cristo." I was afraid Judge Quirino would end the telecast with an appeal to reelect his brother, then-President Elpidio Quirino, but to his credit he did not do so.

In the next 6 months after that initial TV broadcast, the job of sustaining a four-hour daily program from 6 pm to 10 pm was absolutely chaotic. In the mornings I would call on the foreign embassies, oil companies, academic institutions, and film distributors to borrow 16mm black and white films and schedule these for the day’s programming. Many of the films were cartoons like Popeye the Sailor, Mickey Mouse, or Donald Duck. Sometimes I would schedule employee relations films like "Telephone Etiquette" or "How to Deal with Subordinates." Occasionally I would be lucky to borrow The Three Musketeers or The Great Dictator. In making the program lineup, I would use a mechanical film counter to determine how many minutes and seconds the film would run. 

Fast forward 

In June 1955, President Magsaysay granted the Manila Chronicle its broadcasting franchise, which led to the founding of the Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN) in September 1956. A year later in 1957, Alto Broadcasting System (ABS) and Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN) merged to become ABS-CBN.

In a conversation I had with Geny Lopez in 1957 after the ABS-CBN merger, he vowed that the new network would aim, first and foremost, “to be in the service of the Filipino.” 

What has ABS-CBN done in the service of the Filipino? This is the accusing, if not sarcastic, question many administration allies ask, including well-meaning friends from Facebook and the literary sector. (READ: [OPINION] The ABS-CBN hearings: A theater of the absurd)

To contemporary ears, “in the service of the Filipino” may sound like a standard corporate mission statement.  But as a public relations and advertising professional for most of my life, I know that, aside from providing valuable news, public service information, and grassroots entertainment, ABS-CBN, GMA-7, and other broadcasting firms have helped multinational companies sell billions of pesos worth of their products and services by advertising over radio-TV. This has benefited not only the multinational advertisers but the millions of Filipino consumers as well, by allowing an easier distribution of goods and services to satisfy a public need. (READ: [OPINION] Thoughts on press freedom, from an ABS-CBN employee)

Broadcast advertising: A boon to the economy

The total adspend in 2017 by the members of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of the Philippines (4A’s) amounted to P401.9 billion. That’s about 1% of our GDP and that’s just across the 3 media of TV, radio, and print, not yet counting the adspend in online and digital media.    

Of the P401.9 billion adspend, TV accounted for the lion’s share with 79.7%, followed by radio (17.2%) and print (3.1%). In other words, multinational companies such as Unilever, Procter and Gamble, and  Colgate Palmolive, and local companies including Jollibee Food Corp, RFM Ice Cream, United Laboratories, and others, spent about P390 billion in 2017 on ABS-CBN and other broadcast stations to disseminate information about their products and services throughout the Philippines.

Arguably, these huge consumer adspends benefited us consumers and the national economy as a whole because they gave people more information about products, which boost the competition, resulting in reduced prices across the board. In effect, ABS-CBN made purchasing easier for consumers by providing fact sheets about the place and availability of goods, the prices, points of superiority, and other relative merits. 

ABS-CBN teaches modern agriculture to farmers

On a personal level, I can vouch that ABS-CBN has productively helped teach modern agriculture to farmers by radio. From 1965 to 1970, as PR Communication head of Esso Standard Fertilizer and Agricultural Chemical Co. (ESFAC), I produced 24 weekly Tiyo Essong radio farm programs in 24 local radio stations throughout the Philippines, mostly over ABS-CBN, with ABS-CBN’s Ben Viduya as main anchor in Manila. 

Two persons managed each program: a content script writer who had to be an extension worker, and the radio staff announcer. In the Ilocos region, the script was in Ilocano; in the Cebuano areas, it was in Cebuano; it was Ilonggo for Panay island, and so forth. My staff worked closely with each provincial scriptwriter. We designed Tiyo Essong programs to align with the various cropping seasons. For instance, our program in Isabela would follow the cropping season for tobacco, and our program in rice areas would be designed likewise. Our objective was not to give the farmer a diploma but to give him fundamental, practical lessons through radio, including domestic economy, health practices, environment preservation, etc.

For general information about soil analysis, irrigation, and fertilizer and pesticides application, we had ready-made scripts for the writer. Tiyo Essong was not a farming school on the air; it was a let's-do-it-together farming procedure that was relevant in the province where the program was aired. We produced a Radio Farm Program Manual for each scriptwriter, and we met with the radio announcers once every 3 months to upgrade their skills on how to talk informally with the farmers. 

Thanks to ABS-CBN, our Tiyo Essong radio farm programs helped, over the years, to increase our national rice production from a mere 35 to 90 cavans per hectare. – Rappler.com

Charlie Agatep is the Chairman and CEO of Grupo Agatep, Inc. He is an ex-professor of Public Relations and Journalism at the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters.

[OPINION] The Ifugao, cowboys, and assimilation through education



When I first visited Cordillera, I was surprised by the popularity of country music and the cowboy-themed bars and restaurants. You’ll also see men walking around in leather boots, wrangler jeans, and cowboy hats, and sometimes, galloping on horses. You would think that you’re actually in the American West, instead of Banaue or Baguio. It felt like an unfamiliar world, a world very different from what I learned in Philippine schools about peoples who successfully resisted the Spanish. Since the 4th of July just passed, I thought of writing on the Americanization policy that shaped the modern Philippines.

In the 21st century, this concept of resistance is the foundation of Cordillera identity. Yes, it is a fact that the Spanish were never able to establish a permanent foothold in the Philippine Cordilleras, particularly in the western part of the mountain range. The Spanish did try will all their might, at least 8 times in the 1800s, only to be repulsed by an organized alliance of villages. They finally gave up in 1898 but the Americans soon took over.

The 333 years of Spanish colonialism was superseded by the American benevolent assimilation. This shift is particularly important in the making of the Filipino identity as it was not until after 1898 that the Philippine state as we know it today started to take shape. The term Filipino itself was not applied to the local inhabitants of the Philippines; it specifically referred to the Philippine-born Spanish (insulares). It was not until the late 19th century that the wider inhabitants of the Spanish colony co-opted the term and started to call themselves Filipino. When the Americans took over, Cordillerans and the Moros, groups who were not administered by the Spanish, did not consider themselves part of the Filipino identity. (READ: Demystifying the age of the Ifugao Rice Terraces to decolonize history)

It is surprising then, that with almost 200 years of active resistance against Spanish hegemony, the Ifugao almost did not struggle against the new colonizing power. Of course, there were small skirmishes, but not in the level of animosity and aggressiveness compared to what they threw to the Spanish. This contrast in Ifugao responses to American conquest has something to do with how the latter applied what they learned in their campaigns to Americanize the Native American populations.

The United States took over the possession of the Philippines (together with Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam) in 1898 as an offshoot of the Spanish-American War. The Americans instituted a different approach in pacifying the inveterate highlanders through the policy referred to as “Benevolent Assimilation.” This policy, however, was preceded by a bloody imperialistic campaign that killed at least 300,000 Filipino revolutionaries.  This bloody approach was justified by the United States through representational categories of the Noble and Bloody Savage to either help or slaughter opponents.

Whatever the approach utilized by the United States in the early period of their imperialistic expansion at the turn of the 20th century, it was an extension of their campaigns to overwhelm Native Americans. After the military campaigns, the United States proceeded with their expansion with the awareness that they have to repudiate the European colonial violence. 

It was unthinkable for the general American public to consider that the United States, borne out of their fight against imperialism, is now becoming an imperialist. Hence, the official policy was to differentiate their imperialistic expansion against that of European imperialism. This was addressed by benevolent assimilation through education. The crux of this effort is the idea of the “White Man’s Burden." Since the Cordillerans were considered the new frontier, the colonial administrators, through their experiences with the conquest of Native Americans, initiated a long-term mapping of Cordillera groups. This was a significant shift in US policy and sort of an attempt to redeem themselves from their abhorrent failures in the pacification of the Native American groups that resulted in the disappearance of Native American cultures in the Great Plains. 

The push for documenting the upland groups became one of the bases for the establishment of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes in 1901, which became the Ethnological Survey for the Philippine Islands in 1903. This new agency paved the way for the search for anthropologists to lead the ethnographic documentation of the Cordillera groups and, later, the establishment of the Department of Anthropology in the University of the Philippines. (READ: Berries for a cause: Women-led initiative connects Cordillera farmers to the city)

Continuing to apply what they learned in the Native American experience, the United States employed the same educational curriculum that they developed for Native Americans. William Howard Taft, the US Governor-General of the Philippines in 1901, once mentioned that Native Americans who received white education would be similar to Euroamericans “…in industry, in loyalty to the country, in law abiding character, and in morality.” Conceivably, this was the basis of the Philippine education curriculum developed by the United States. It used the educational system as the agent for the Americanization of the Philippines. 

The Philippine Cordillera, particularly, Ifugao, became this new frontier for instilling American values in the indigenous population, as they did with Native Americans. There is no other place in the Philippines where country music is very popular and where the older generation spoke fluent English but does not speak the national language. It is also a place where Americans brought their brand of Christianity. 

The events that followed soon after the American takeover replaced some of the Hispanic foundation of lowland cultures in the Philippines with those of Euroamerican ideals. Where the Spanish failed, the Americans succeeded by using education as a tool to indoctrinate the diverse ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines to identify as Filipino. To accomplish this, the United States had to develop a curriculum that not only teaches children reading, writing, and arithmetic; it had to refashion Filipino culture just as education sought to "remake" the Indians at home. The history curriculum used by elementary and high school programs in the Philippines exemplifies this focus where local history is ignored over nationalistic histories. It has been over a hundred years, but this foundation of Philippine education is still in use.

A recent national policy shift in K-12 education mandates that the Department of Education must contextualize history curricula in local realities. However, teachers are under-equipped to carry out this directive since there are no initiatives yet to properly train teachers in indigenous history and heritage. Education, as used by colonial overlords, is a tool to shape the characters of citizens. Let’s also use education to acknowledge and redress the injustices received by our Indigenous peoples, a goal that the Ifugao Community Heritage Galleries in Kiangan, Ifugao, which now serves as the Ifugao Indigenous Peoples Education (IPED) Center, is endeavoring to achieve. – Rappler.com

Stephen Acabado is associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His archaeological investigations in Ifugao, northern Philippines, have established the recent origins of the Cordillera Rice Terraces, which were once known to be at least 2,000 years old. Dr. Acabado directs the Bicol and Ifugao Archaeological Projects and co-directs the Taiwan Indigenous Landscape and History Project. He is a strong advocate of an engaged archaeology where descendant communities are involved in the research process.

Marlon Martin is the Chief Operation Officer of the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement, a non-profit heritage conservation organization in his home province of Ifugao, Philippines. He actively works with various academic and conservation organizations both locally and internationally in the pursuit of indigenous studies integration and inclusion in the formal school curricula. Along with Acabado, he established the first community-led Ifugao Indigenous Peoples Education Center, the first in the region.

[OPINYON] Kapag nawalan ng rap ang masa



Wala pang isang linggo noong tinintahan ng pangulo ang Anti-Terrorism Act na siya namang umani ng mga reaksyon mula sa iba’t ibang grupong nagsusulong ng karapatang-pantao. Naligo ng angry reax sa social media ang bawat balita at litratong ukol dito. Kapag naisabatas na kasi ito, kahit sinong pinaghihinalaang terorista ay maaaring ikulong agad-agad ng hanggang dalawang linggo nang walang nababasang Warrant of Arrest.

Saklaw kasi ng Senate Bill No. 1083, Sec 5 ang pagtatakda sa sino man bilang terorista, sa pamamagitan ng kaniyang panulat at pananalita, na nagtutulak sa isang indibidwal na gumawa ng isang akto ng terorismo base sa Anti-Terrorism Act. Saklaw nito ang iba’t ibang klaseng manunulat — mga nobelista, songwriters, kwentista, scriptwriters, mga makata, at iba pa — na may obrang may temang iimpluwensiya sa isang tao para lumabag sa batas ayon sa Senate Bill No. 1083. (READ: 'Respect human rights': CCP Thirteen Artists Awardees decry anti-terror law)

Panigurado, apektado rito ang mga local rappers na may temang pulitikal sa kanilang mga awitin na hindi sang-ayon sa lente ng gobyerno. Baka hindi na sila sumulat pa ng mga kantang magpapakita ng reyalidad at estado ng lipunan na maaaring balikan sila bilang akto ng terorsimo. 

Pero simula’t sapul pa lang naman, kung lilingunin ang pinagmulan ng hip-hop, ay makikitang kasama na sa kultura ng hip-hop ang pagpalag at protesta. 

Noong 1970s, patok na patok ang disco sa New York na dinadaluhan ng mga kilala at matataas na tao. Pero sa isang parte ng New York na kung tawagin ay South Bronx,  talamak ang mga krimen ng pagnanakaw bilang resulta ng kawalan ng trabaho — hindi sa tamad, kung hindi walang talagang mapasukang trabaho — at patong-patong na problema sa lugar. Hindi makapunta sa mga ganitong piging ang mga taga-South Bronx dahil sa kanilang mga dinaranas at reputasyon. Noong August 1973, nagkaroon sila ng sariling pagtitipon sa gitna ng kanilang danas na dinaluhan ng mga simpleng taong walang magarang damit, walang suot na mga alahas, at higit sa lahat  ay hindi disco ang hanap kung hindi ang tunog ng kanilang lugar na kalauna’y naging hip-hop. 

Niyakap ng lipunan ang hip-hop at ang kultura nito sa paglipas ng panahon lalo’t lalo na sa panahon ng police brutality sa buong Amerika noong 1980s. May pangyayari kasing hinuli ang lahat ng Black Americans para alamin ang kanilang mga detalye dahil sa suspetiyang gagawa sila ng masama. Para sa mga pulis ay kakambal ng kulay ang paggawa ng krimen sa Los Angeles, Compton. Bunga ng galit sa pang-uuri ng kapulisan sa mga black americans, naging tema ng mga tao ang kantang "Fuck Tha Police" ng grupong N.W.A. na umusig sa mga maling pagdakip, pagkulong, at pagpatay sa mga amerikanong hindi puti. Dumating pa sa puntong pinasok ng mga pulis ang concert ng N.W.A. sa Detroit noong kinanta nila ang kantang malinaw na naipadala ang mensahe sa kapulisan. 

Matapos pasukin ng kapulisan ang concert, nagkasampahan ng kaso laban sa kanila at sa kasamaang palad, walang napatawan ng parusa sa kahit sino mang pulis na humuli sa kanila. Hindi ito nagustuhan ng mga taong parte ng komunidad ng Black Americans at bumuo ito ng sigwa sa pagitan ng mga kulay. Naging instrumento ang kanta ng N.W.A para ipakita sa buong mundo ang danas ng mga Black Americans na kaakibat ng mga kawalang-hustisyang pinagdaanan nila sa kapulisan. 

Kung tutuusin, hindi lang mga rappers sa ibang bansa ang napagdidiskitahan ng mga pulis at testimonya rito sila LOONIE at Shanti Dope. 

Noong 2019, tinangkang ipa-ban ng PDEA ang kantang "Amatz" dahil para sa kanila ay isinusulong ng kanta ang paggamit ng pinagbabawal na gamot na siyang sinusubukang sugpuin ng Oplan Tokhang. Sabi ni PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, dapat daw na gamitin ni Shanti Dope ang kaniyang musika para makipagtulungan sa pamahalaan para burahin ang paggamit ng droga sa kabataan. Pero kung tutuusin, nagawa na ito ni Shanti Dope dahil kasama sa kaniyang album noong 2017 ang kantang "T.H." na nagkukwento sa danas ng isang taong inosente na binisita ng mga pulis na naghahanap ng ipinagbabawal na gamot. Isa pang kanta sa kaniyang album na Materyal ang kantang "Norem" na nagkuwento naman danas ng isang tulak ng ipinagbabawal na gamot at kung paano siya naging biktima ng sistema. (READ: [WATCH] Rappler Live Jam: Uprising Collective)

Ilang araw matapos ang balita sa pagitan ni Shanti Dope at PDEA, nag-Facebook Live si LOONIE para ilabas ang kaniyang saloobin. Binanggit niya na hindi epektibo ang ginagawang hakbang ng PNP para sugpuin ang droga sa bansa lalo na’t marami nang namatay pero hindi pa rin nahuhuli ang pinagmumulan ng droga. Ilang araw ang nakalipas, nahuli si LOONIE sa isang entrapment operation at nahulian ang rapper ng libo-libong halaga ng imported drugs. (READ: Rapper Loonie released on P2 million bail)

Ang dalawang rapper ay nagpapahayag ng hindi pagtango sa kanilang nakikita sa paligid na hindi nagustuhan ng pamahalaan. Isa itong akto ng pagbusal ng mga tao at ahensyang kanilang pinupuna.

Noong isang taon, inilabas ang Kolateral: isang rap album na may mga awiting naglalaman ng mga kuwento’t naratibo ng mga nabiktima ng Oplan Tokhang. Binosesan ng album ang bawat pangungulila, galit, at dismaya ng masang may kakilala’t kapamilyang nabiktima ng programa. Naging matagumpay ang album sa pagpapaabot ng mensahe at kwento ng mga biktima sa porma ng rap, kaakibat ng mga artistang tumulong para bunuin ang labing-dalawang awitin. (READ: 'Kolateral' rages against the 'drug war' – here’s why you need to listen)

Ayon sa literary critic na si George Lukács, mahuhusay ang mga artistang naipapakita at naipapabatid ang karanasan ng pagiging  tao sa kanilang napiling mga porma. Hindi lang sa aspeto ng pagiging tao, kasama rito pati ang danas at lupit ng pang-aalipusta na naipaakita sa mga tula, kuwento, pelikula, dula, litrato, pinta, at iba pa. Ika nga, repleksyon ng lipunan ang sining at repleksyon ng sining ang lipunan pabalik. 

At ito ang patuloy na ginagawa ng rap. Dahil galing sa komunidad ang mga kwento, mas naiintindihan at nararamdaman ng komunindad ang mensahe. Tagos pa.

Bumubuo ito ng damdamin at kamalayan ng sabay na nagtutulak sa mga tagapakinig nito para mag-isip, umusisa, at magmulat sa paligid.

Pero paano na kaya kapag batas na ang Anti-Terror Act? Paano kaya ang magiging sistema ng eksena ng local rap? Kung titikom man at pipikit ang mga rappers sa nangyayari at mangyayari pa sa bansa, nasa kanila ang desisyon. Wala namang masama sa pagpili ng kaligtasan. May mga personal na dahilan para tumigil at magpatuloy pero sana ay hindi nila makalimutang mabilis na paraan ang pakikinig sa musika para maiparating sa mga tao ang ano mang mensaheng nais nilang iparating. Sa panahon ngayon, higit na kailangan ng lipunan ang rap at sining.

Sa panahon ngayon, kailangang mas magpadala ng mga mensahe sa mga tao, lalo na sa kabataang may kakayahang bumago ng lipunan sa hinaharap. Kapag nawalan ng rap ang masa, mababawasan ng pupuna. Kapag nawalan ng rap ang masa, mas kakaunti ang mga magmumulat. Kapag nawalan ng rap ang masa, bilang na lang ang makikisawsaw sa mga isyung panlipunan. Higit sa kailanman, kailangan natin ng hip-hop dahil siguradong magiging mapait at hindi magiging masarap ang danas ng masa kapag walang rap. – Rappler.com

Nagtapos ng kursong Journalism si sa Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas at kasalukuyang kumukuha ng Malikhaing Pagsulat sa paaralang gwadrado ng parehong paaralan. Kung wala sa eskwelahan, malamang nasa lansangan. 

[OPINION | Artwork] Bangungot sa mga mulat


MANILA, Philippines – In the middle of the coronavirus health crisis, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a bill giving the government more powers to act against persons or groups falling under what critics say is a dangerous and vague definition of terrorism.

This was announced by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Friday, July 3.

How do visual artists feel about a law that could possibly stifle them from free expression? 

This week, we feature the work of Marc Christian Nas, a 23-year old architecture graduate and start-up digital artist (he mainly uses PowerPoint!) from Bulacan.

The work below is entitled "Bangungot sa mga mulat," and here's what he has to say about it:

"Sa panahon ng matinding krisis sa kalusugan, ang karamihan sa atin ay mulat na sa realidad ng ating buhay: mulat na sa kasalatan sa serbisyong medikal; kawalan ng trabaho, makakain at matutuluyan; mulat sa panggigipit ng mga naghaharing-uri. At imbis na pakinggan ng administrasyong ito ang hinaing ng bawat isa, ang iba ay ipinagsasawalang-kibo na lang. Ang malala, ang mga mulat ay pinatatahimik pa, sinasakal, dinadaan sa kamay na bakal. Tayo ay iniisa-isa, hinuhuli, kinukulong; higit pa roon, kinikitil ang buhay. 

Sa pagpirma ng Anti-Terror Law, imbis na kapayapaan at katarungan ang nais iparating, mas pinalalakas pa ang sistematikong pang-aabuso sa batas at sa kapangyarihan laban sa atin. Kahit sino ay maaaring maging biktima ng red-tagging. Kahit sino, maaaring tawaging terorista nang walang basehan. Kahit sino, maaaring makulong. At ito ay pinapahiwatig lamang na ang Anti-Terror Law ay isang malaking bangungot sa ating mga mulat."

You can follow Marc on Twitter and Instagram via @asdfghjklmarcky. – Rappler.com

'We will fight back': Media groups slam House panel for denying ABS-CBN franchise


PRESS ON. ABS-CBN workers on Thursday, July 10, 2020, hold a protest rally outside the House of Representatives to call for the approval of the network's franchise. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Media groups denounced the decision of the House committee on legislative franchises to reject the franchise renewal of media giant ABS-CBN on Friday, July 10. 

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that the decision showed that the House panel  has declared itself an “enemy of democracy.”

“Today, this chamber has lost all claim to represent the people and our interests. Today, not only have more than 11,000 people been stripped of their jobs, millions of Filipinos have been deprived of their right to know and their right to choose how to access the information they need to decide on their futures as well as the entertainment that allows them a respite from the hardships of life,” the NUJP said.

Of the 85 members of the committee, 70 voted in favor of the technical working group recommendation to reject the franchise renewal, 11 voted against it,  2 inhibited, and 1 abstained. (READ: ABS-CBN defenders make last stand: ‘Why punish a company that did not breach laws?’)

AlterMidya-People's Alternative Media Network, a national network of over 30 independent media outfits in the Philippines, said decision has betrayed the Filipino people by striking another blow to press freedom and the people’s right to information. 

“To say that the members of the media sector are perturbed and disappointed is an understatement: we are beyond aghast by how the supposed politicians who were thrust to create new laws for the benefit of the Filipino people only muckraked ABS-CBN and marred the franchise deliberations with egotistical gripes and weak accusations,” Altermidya said.

ABS-CBN had enjoyed a 25-year franchise valid until May 4 of this year. A day after the franchise lapsed, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered ABS-CBN to cease its television and radio operations. 

'Government-orchestrated plot'

Altermidya said that the NTC’s order and Congress’ denial to grant the franchise are part of a “government-orchestrated plot” and “nothing less than censorship.”  

The media giant has been on the receiving end of President Rodrigo Duterte's attacks, which the Chief Executive himself telling ABS-CBN in December 2019 to just sell the network as it would not a franchise renewal anyway. The network drew his ire after failing to air around P6.6 million worth of political advertisements paid for by Duterte’s campaign in 2016. 

“It is clear as day that ABS-CBN is being punished for reporting and commenting on issues in a manner unacceptable to the Duterte administration. It is also a warning to other media outfits that if the Duterte regime can shut down the largest broadcasting network in the country with impunity, every journalist should think twice before it reports truthfully, or criticizes and dares hold government to account,” Altermidya said

Despite the denial of the franchise, NUJP said it will continue to demand to bring ABS-CBN back on air, banking on public support for the cause. (READ: Scenarios: What happens to ABS-CBN franchise after House panel vote?)

“Let us prove that it is not the 'will of Congress' but the will of the people that ultimately prevails. Let our demand remain: #IbalikAngABSCBN,” NUJP said.

Altermidya also vowed to exhaust all means to fight back and continue the battle for press freedom. 

“We are beyond enraged. The fight for press freedom and the people’s right to know does not end with this farce in Congress. The Filipino media, and the broad section of the Filipino nation, are not backing down. We will exhaust all efforts to fight back and reclaim our rights,” Altermidya said. Rappler.com 

Sectoral groups vow to remember how House panel voted on ABS-CBN franchise


KAPIT KAPAMILYA. Artists and employees of ABS-CBN hold a candlelighting ceremony at the network's compound after Congress denied its franchise application on July 10, 2020. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – After the House committee on legislative franchises rejected the franchise renewal application of broadcast network ABS-CBN on Friday, July 10, various sectoral groups vowed to remember how the lawmakers voted. 

Among the regular and honorary members of the committee who were present physically and through video call, 70 voted in favor of the technical working group's recommendation to reject the franchise renewal, 11 voted against it, 2 inhibited, and 1 abstained. 

In a statement, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) alleged that the decision was motivated by “political interests” and “personal benefit.” (READ: 'We will fight back': Media groups slam House panel for denying ABS-CBN franchise

“We will never forget this historic betrayal by the members of the House of Representatives.... Instead of working on genuine solutions for problematic labor practices in ABS-CBN and across the broadcast industry, the representatives that voted today did so for their own personal benefit, in accordance with the wishes of Malacañang,” the labor group said.

Another labor group, Nagkaisa, said the House panel’s decision endangered the livelihood of 11,000 workers and their families' only means of survival in this time of pandemic. (READ: After franchise rejection, ABS-CBN says: 'Kapit lang'

“ABS-CBN may not be everyone's model corporation, but none of its perceived sins justify its killing. Congress acted on a presidential order, motivated by vengeance. In doing so, it has yet again blurred the lines between co-equal branches of government,” Nagkaisa stressed. 

‘Coddling Duterte’s prejudice’

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said the country’s largest broadcast network was “killed by those in government, starting with President Rodrigo Duterte himself whose threats triggered the turn of events leading to today.”

“The people will hold them responsible for any resulting layoffs, any denial or limitation in information, and any attacks to press freedom and expression resulting from this shutdown,” CAP continued. 

ABS-CBN had been at the receiving end of President Rodrigo Duterte's attacks, with the Chief Executive himself telling ABS-CBN in December 2019 to just sell the network, as its franchise wouldn't get renewed anyway.  

The network drew his ire after failing to air around P6.6 million worth of his paid political advertisements during the 2016 presidential election. 

The group also commended the 11 representatives who voted against the denial of the ABS-CBN franchise. 

Akbayan Youth, meanwhile, pointed out that, despite the evidence presented during the hearings, refuting the alleged violations of the media giant, “the government is coddling Duterte’s personal prejudice against the network.”

“Ang desisyon ng kongreso ay dagdag sa mahabang listahan ng patunay na hindi na ito independente mula sa opisina ng Pangulong Duterte. 'Pinakita ulit ng mga mambabatas ngayon na sila ay handang sumunod sa bawat utos at kapricho ng lumalalang diktador,” YouthResist said in a statement. 

(The decision of the House adds to the long list that proves it is not independent of the office of President Duterte. The lawmakers have then again showed that they are ready to follow the orders and whims of a worsening dictator.)

Here are other statements from various youth and sectoral groups:

 – Rappler.com

'Personal grudges, interests' prevailed in rejection of ABS-CBN franchise – academics


PRESS FREEDOM. Artists and employees of ABS-CBN hold a candlelighting ceremony at the network's compound after Congress denied its franchise application on July 10, 2020. Photo by Angie de Silva/ Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The academic community joined other groups in condemning lawmakers who voted against ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, saying these people pursued their "personal grudges and interests" instead of the greater good.

Professors and educators from the Philippine Association of Communication Educators (PACE), University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC), and UP Department of Communication Research stood by their colleagues and alumni working at the largest broadcasting network in the Philippines to condemn the denial of its franchise application. 

"We deplore how the franchise hearings, bereft as they were of communication and media experts nor of solid academic research that would back allegations of news bias and inappropriate content, were used to legitimize the expression of personal grudges and interests rather than the greater good," the UP Department of Communication Research said in its statement. 

The House of Representatives conducted a total of 13 hearings on the franchise bills, mostly conducted after the National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN to cease its television and radio operations a day after its franchise lapsed on May 4. 

During one of these hearings, lawmakers threshed out the alleged issues on ABS-CBN's “biased” reporting and grilled ABS-CBN executives over their coverages of the 2016 elections, Dengvaxia issue, and even the ongoing franchise hearings. 

ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs chief Regina "Ging" Reyes defended her reporters, telling lawmakers that ABS-CBN journalists keep their biases in check and correct mistakes as needed. (READ: After franchise rejection, ABS-CBN says: 'Kapit lang')

The franchise rejection also came after Duterte's sustained threats against ABS-CBN after it earned the president's ire for failing to air around P6.6 million worth of political advertisements during the 2016 elections. 

In its statement, UP CMC reminded lawmakers that the job of the media is to "serve as watchdog of society and not serve as politicians' public relations arm."

UP CMC also pointed out that those most affected by the House panel vote are "Filipinos in far-flung areas who will be deprived of timely and useful information regarding the pandemic and calamity alerts" and the network's 11,000 employees – many of whom are alumni of the college.

Communications educators' group PACE vowed to fend off attacks against press freedom by helping voters make a more informed choice in the next elections. (READ: 'We will fight back': Media groups slam House panel for denying ABS-CBN franchise)

"In the next elections, PACE shall join electoral education initiatives to remind the voters that no one, not even lawmakers, shall curtail press freedom," PACE said. (READ: Sectoral groups vow to remember how House panel voted on ABS-CBN franchise

"We will write in Philippine media books and we will always teach students enrolled in Communication and its allied fields that today, July 10, 2020, is an unfortunate historical moment because of the legislators and their invisible powers-that-be who assaulted press freedom," it added. – Rappler.com 

Youth groups continue protest as anti-terrorism law nears implementation


PROTEST. Sectoral groups unite at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City to continue its protest against government's response to a health crisis calling out its 'misplaced priorities' 
Photo by The Catalyst of PUP

MANILA, Philippines – Vowing to fight the implementation of the anti-terrorism law, youth groups continued to express their resistance a week after the signing of the controversial law. 

Youth Act Now Against Tyranny (YANAT) National Convenor Raoul Manuel said the youth’s eagerness to stand their ground and not cower. 

“Asahan na ng gobyernong Duterte na ang mga kabataan ay hindi matatakot at mananahimik (The government must expect that the youth will not cower in fear and will not be silenced),” he said in an online press conference with several youth groups on Friday, July 10,

Manuel said that it was vital to continue protesting so as not to let “our government weaponize laws to advance its own interest." (WATCH: The dangers of the Anti-Terrorism Law

“Naniniwala ang mga kabataan na dapat nang ipabasura ang terror law. Ang terror law ay pagluklok sa kaniyang sarili bilang isang diktdor at pag-legalisa lalo ng state terror para ang gagawin n’yang suveilance at redtagging ay wala nang tigil (The youth believe that the terror law must be junked. The terror law means installing a dictator and legalizing state terror to legitimize surveillance and red-tagging)” said Manuel.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed last week, July 3, the highly opposed law, which critics say could be used to outlaw dissent and harass rights defenders, social activists, “and ordinary Filipinos who will assert their legitimate demands.”

‘More human rights violations’

The youth groups warned that with human rights violations already rampant even before the measure’s signing into law, ATL’s full-blown implementation would only result in an increase in the number of human rights violations in the country.

Dominic Gotoman, editor-in-chief of Polytechnic University of the Philippines organ The Catalyst said the implementation of the law could intensify the red-tagging and harassment of student activists. 

“The anti-terror law will only intensify its attacks against progressive and critical students. Given the attacks we have seen, it is only just and important to condemn and fight back," he said in the press conference.

For the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Duterte is the “number one terrorist.”

“The Filipino people have no other path to tread but the route to an intensified militancy and struggle and that he should tighten his grip while he is still in power because the growing and strengthening mass movement will defy his tyrannical rule,” CEGP added. 

Last June 20, members of Philippine National Police confiscated an “anti-terrorism bill”  banner installed by students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines in front of its main campus. Students who held a protest outside the campus were also allegedly harassed by policemen who, based on reports, said “rallies” were prohibited during quarantine.  

Amid opposition from various groups and several petitions filed to challenge the law before the Supreme Court, ATL is expected to be implemented on July 19, with National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr saying that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) was ready to convene and craft the law’s implementing rules and regulations.

Another mobilization

Youth groups also led a mobilization protest at the University of the Philippines Diliman on Saturday, July 11. This was led by YANAT and other several youth groups, including Kabataan Para Karapatang Pantao (KATAPAT), College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), National Union of Students of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Kabataan Partylist, and Panday Sining. 

Protesters trooped to the University Avenue and later joined other sectoral groups led by lawyers and Martial Law-era veterans in a broad indignation and teach-in protest at the Commision on Human Rights. (READ: Filipinos take to the streets to protest against anti-terrorism law

“Lahat tayo ay pwedeng masakop sa anti-terror law, kahit sino puwedeng ma-target (The scope of anti-terrorism is so broad that it can target anyone),”  lawyer Antonio La Vina said in the program at the CHR. 

According to the human rights lawyer, indigenous peoples resisting development projects and students opposing tuition increases and participating in various issues could also be targeted by the law, citing that they have long been subjected to red-tagging and state-surveillance.

“Sa simpleng pag-oorganisa lang, pwede kayong matarget ng anti-terror law (By plain organizing, you could be targeted by the law.),” he added.

In a report released Friday, the Commission on Human Rights said human rights defenders (HRDs) in the country “live a grim reality,” emphasizing that violence against them has been legitimized and is “largely attributable to the pronouncements of the President.”

The report noted that red-tagging, public vilification, profiling and surveillance, weaponization of law, among other systematic attacks condoned and perpetrated by the State, have placed HRDs’ “life, liberty, and security… at great risk.”

‘Not the time to be silent’

In the protest held at the CHR, Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers echoed the youth, saying that “this is not the time to be silent” and that the “parliamentary of the street” remains instrumental against tyrants and tyrannical regimes. 

“Ano mang klaseng tiranikong rehimen ay bumabagsak sa pamamagitan ng pagkilos at pagkakaisa ng mamamayan (All kinds of tyrannical regime can be toppled down by protesting and unity,” he said.

Rae Reposar, President of the De La Salle Law Student Council and the youngest among the petitioners who challenged the law before the Supreme Court, said “the generation of today is fighting for the future generation” so as not to let laws be used to perpetrate injustice.

“Do not tire speaking up against injustice sapagkat tayo ang magmamana ng bayan na ito. (We will inherit this country.) We are doing this not just but ourselves, but for the least, the last, and the lost,” he said.

Martial Law veteran and lawyer Neri Colmenares also challenged the youth to lead the fight against the “draconian law”. 

“Isa sa mga magdurusa ay ang sektor ng kabataan, kaya nararapat lang na pangunahan ng mga kabataan ang labang ito (One of the sectors that will be affected by the law is the youth, that is why the youth should lead us in this battle),” he said. – Rappler.com 

Pisay scholars make free storybook to teach children about COVID-19



FOR THE YOUTH. 'Kids Against COVID-19' is both a storybook and a coloring book for children aged 3 to 7 years old. Cover photo from Publiscience website; reader photo courtesy of Jean Suobiron-Larroder

CAPIZ, Philippines – How do you talk to a 3-year-old about COVID-19?

This was a question that research and physics teacher Dr Aris Larroder sought to answer with Kids Against COVID-19.

Created with his students at the Philippine Science High School - Western Visayas campus (PSHS-WVC), Kids Against COVID-19 is both a storybook and a coloring book for children aged 3 to 7 years old. It aims to educate children about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and empower them even at their young age to do their part in protecting themselves from the fast-spreading virus.

Science for the community

The book started with two realizations: that there were no coronavirus-related information materials for children, and that as a science school, PSHS-WVC needed to do something that addressed the COVID pandemic. Larroder wanted to address them both.

As a science educator for 17 years, Larroder has a strong belief that science is meant to be shared with the community. 

It's no surprise that he would think of making a children's book to educate the youth about science. However, if you ask Larroder himself, he would point out that most of the work was done by his students: some graduating scholars of PSHS-WVC Batch 2020 researched, wrote, and illustrated the book themselves.

"I made an initial outline for them, but the final thoughts – those was all theirs," said Larroder in a mix of Filipino and English.

The process

Originally, the storybook was proposed as a requirement for Grade 12 students taking up Larroder’s research class at PSHS-WVC, since they couldn’t do other activities given the cancelation of classes due to COVID-19. Many were initially interested, but after it was announced that the school year would be cut short in April, only a few students remained to pursue the project.

Rajo Cadorna, Jenn Sampiano, Luke Socrates, and Seth Tionko – all Grade 12 students at PSHS-WVC – were left to become the main workforce behind the storybook. Despite not being graded for it anymore, these students believe that doing something for their young fellow countrymen is a reward all on its own.

"The best we can do as PSHS scholars is the effective communication of science to the people," said Tionko, one of the researchers of the storybook.

However, the work was not without its problems and frustrations. Aside from issues with motivation and having to work separate from each other, they quickly realized that communicating science to young children was more difficult than they first thought.

A CHILD'S ARTISTRY. Seven-year-old Pett Gregory Larroder, Dr Larroder's nephew, uses vibrant colors to color in this illustration of coronavirus. Photo courtesy of Jean Suobiron-Larroder

"I wanted to include so much information that it was overwhelming. When I made my first draft, they told me it was too long for a kid's storybook," shared Sampiano, who was both a researcher and a writer for the storybook.

Meanwhile, Socrates, who shares the writing credits for the storybook along with Sampiano, routinely read their drafts to his 7-year-old brother, noting when concepts were hard to grasp and when certain words weren't familiar. 

"I rephrased a lot, trying to use as less words as possible. I am used to talking with children, so I used that experience," he said in a mix of Filipino and English. 

Another goal of the storybook is to make something children could identify themselves with and enjoy. 

For Cadorna, the sole illustrator, his challenge was in trying to find balance: his illustrations had to be informative, easy to understand, and, most importantly, fun to look at.

"I had to see through a kid's eyes. If I were a kid, would I like this storybook? Is it impressive? Do I understand everything? I had to capture that childlike wonder and still transmit the messages clearly," Cardona said.

Empathize with children

In the middle of the book, Kids Against COVID-19 asks its readers a question: “Are you worried about coronavirus?”

While this may seem out of place in a storybook that aims to educate and inform, the book's creators believe that it’s absolutely essential to help children understand their own feelings about the pandemic and its effect on their lives.

According to Sampiano, the book is also meant to help the children cope. 

"It reassures them and makes them feel that their emotions are valid. Whatever they're going through, they can get through with the help of the people around them," he added.

KIDS AGAINST COVID-19. The cover of the storybook features children of different genders, sizes, shapes, and colors coming together to fight coronavirus. Graphic from the Publiscience website

Finding safety and comfort are a large part of what the book is about. While the first half of it covers the origins, spread, and symptoms associated with COVID-19, the second half covers what children can do to keep themselves safe and quell their panic. This is also meant to help parents understand the feelings of their children, as it can be difficult trying to talk to young kids about such a complex matter.

Ultimately, the book hopes to bring in children into the conversation of COVID-19.

"It's more than just a storybook and coloring book," explained Larroder. "As early as 3 years old, these kids can do something for our cause. This is a message to everyone that this is not the fight of one person, but this is a fight of everyone."

The last page of the storybook says it best, with this simple yet strong statement: Together, we can fight coronavirus.

Accessible to many

Kids Against COVID-19 is meant to be as inclusive as possible, which is why it is completely free and available in multiple Filipino languages. 

The book was released online alongside the new volume of PSHS-WVC’s official research journal on June 26. It’s free for download at Publiscience, the school's official website for science publications.

It is currently available in English, Filipino, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon. New translations in Aklanon, Bikolano, Itawes, and Waray-waray are to be released on Sunday, July 12. (READ: Cebuano youth seek to help local communities understand COVID-19)

For the Pisay scholars behind the book, the next logical step is making the book accessible to children all over the world. The team has already coordinated with translators for Thai and Japanese, and is currently searching for volunteers for other languages such as Chinese. 

While the entire book has been uploaded online for free, Larroder is also accepting donations in order to produce copies and provide coloring materials for communities that have no access to the internet or printers. 

For those who wish to help translate or donate, Larroder can be reached at 09458038432 or his email at alarroder@wvc.pshs.edu. – Rappler.com

Dorothy Andrada is a Rappler mover from Roxas City, Capiz. She is a college sophomore at the Ateneo de Manila University.

[OPINION] Honoring the predecessors of the #HijaAko movement


26 June 2019. Wednesday. Noon. 

Out of breath from running around the city with a big placard in one hand and a heavy, borrowed tripod on the other, I stood in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul with 80 other activists demanding for an official apology and reparations from the Japanese government. After that day’s demonstration, Jacqueline Lingbaoan, a Filipino-Canadian volunteer for the House of Sharing, carefully maneuvered an exhausted Lee Ok-Seon-halmoniinto into the backseat of a van.  

“Lee Ok-Seon-halmoni was expecting a big crowd today and there was indeed a huge crowd,” she said. “The grandmothers have been standing on the exact same spot for the past 30 years. Now…they have to sit beside everybody else because of their conditions. But their voices are just as loud as it was [back in 1992].”

The Wednesday Protest is a weekly protest that has been held 1,438 times since January 1992. Whenever their health permits a grueling three-hour travel to the city center, the halmonis endure the long commute to attend the demonstrations. The purpose of this protest is to demand that Japan formally apologize and accept historical responsibility for the atrocities it has committed against “comfort women” and to educate future generations by including this tragic piece of history in the Japanese educational curriculum. 

Who are the comfort women? After the international backlash that Japan faced following the Nanking Massacre, the Emperor ordered the creation of “comfort stations” or military brothels to provide constant sex for soldiers to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. However, as these comfort stations expanded, Japanese prostitutes could no longer meet the growing demand. As a result, thousands of women from occupied territories were forcibly conscripted to these brothels. Many survivors testify to having been raped by up to 70 soldiers daily. (READ: Comfort women: 'Hustisya para sa mga lola')

According to historian Yanson Ahn, sexual violence in Japanese comfort stations have become a routinized everyday practice. In fact, it is a common sight to see long lines of soldiers queuing up for sex with their “trousers down and underpants already almost off.” Many soldiers begin to unbuckle their trousers outside the door and would come out of the room naked. Each soldier is expected to finish “intercourse” quickly as there are still those waiting for their “turn.” The imagery conjured by these descriptions looks very much like the queue for a public toilet. These women were dehumanized to the extent that their bodies have been reduced to being “toilet structures.”

My own cathartic exploration of the harrowing plight of the survivors of institutionalized wartime sexual slavery began on the second floor of the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater in UP Diliman. As I was watching the actress who played Nana Rosa endure 9 months of dehumanizing abuse, I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to keep their story alive. It is true what they say — art really should “comfort the disturb and disturb the comfortable.” This is precisely the reason why in the last year, I have been spending my breaks from law school tracking down the remaining survivors of institutionalized military sexual slavery.

Lola Lita Vinuya and the Malaya Lolas Organization 

On 23 November 1944, mortar rained down the quiet town of Mapanique as the Imperial Japanese Army doused houses with gasoline, ruthlessly bayonetting every last man they could find. The Japanese soldiers hauled the women into the Bahay na Pula, where they were repeatedly tortured and raped. As a result of the abuse they suffered as children, a lot of the survivors left the village for fear of the stigma and persecution attached to being a rape victim. Some were so traumatized and repulsed by male companionship that they refused to marry and have children. 

Holding a red plastic bag of nganga, Isabelita Vinuya (Lola Lita) had a glazed, faraway look in her eyes as she was narrating to me the fateful day when the Japanese Army raided her village. Lola Lita was just 11 years old when she was forcibly taken to the Bahay Na Pula to be brutally raped and subjected to various forms of sexual humiliation and violence. Nearly 7 decades later, she filed a case against the Philippine government to order the President to espouse their claims against the Japanese government. But when I asked her if she recalls why she lost that highly controversial case, she barely remembered that there was even a case to begin with. Since they lost that case in 2010, Filipino comfort women barely made the headlines of popular news agencies in the country. Since then, many members of the Malaya Lolas Organization and Lila Pilipina have died. Their identities, and consequently their lived experiences, were left in the margins of history. 

The predecessors of the #HijaAko Movement

Before the #HijaAko Movement, there were the comfort women. The #HijaAko Movement originated from an online spat between Ben Tulfo and Frankie Pangilinan, when Tulfo tweeted that women should not wear revealing clothes so as not to “unleash the beast.” In an attempt to debunk the antiquated misconception that a woman’s clothing causes rape, women from all over the country came forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and abuse. It sparked meaningful conversations on issues that were previously considered taboo, such as the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment, date rape in college parties, sexual grooming and predatory behaviors of faculty members in Catholic private schools, and the misogynistic “locker room” talk in university fraternity group chats. (READ: Rappler Talk with Kakie Pangilian: #HijaAko and finding one’s voice)

We should recognize that the #HijaAko Movement is not merely a “Filipinized” incarnation of the #MeToo Movement, because it is organically built upon the pioneering initiatives of early activists against gender-based violence and systemic sexual abuse — the comfort women. Self-identification as a comfort woman is deemed as a “symbolic act of rebellion” at a time when female chastity and virginity were considered as the most important virtues of a woman. At its core, the HijaAko Movement is founded upon a victim-centered approach, which denounces the culture of impunity and “structural silencing” that followed these abuses. (READ: 'Inviting the beast'? #HijaAko trends as women call out victim blaming)

“Sabi ni nanay, ‘Kapag muling binigkas, muling nagkakatotoo.’ Kaya sa isip ko lang binibigkas,” says Nana Rosa. For nearly 50 years, Nana Rosa kept her story a secret. But hearing Kim Hak Sun speak out over the radio inspired her to break her silence and tell the story of her abuse. Like what Kim Hak Sun’s 1991 testimony did for Nana Rosa, the #HijaAko Movement is all about women empowering women. After her first press conference in 1992, 29 women came forward within months, as they were “encouraged by seeing Lola Rosa on television.”

I have always believed that memorialization of history and the establishment of statues help us confront and heal from the painful narratives of the past. And so, a few hours before my scheduled flight back to Manila, I laid flowers at the bronze statue of a girl — the Statue of Peace promising her that her story  their story — will never be forgotten. 

In memory of Maria Rosa L. Henson 
(5 December 1927-18 August 1997). 
Your voice lives on. 

– Rappler.com 

Ma. Hazel Joy Faco is a Juris Doctor student specializing in International Human Rights Law in Ateneo de Manila University. In 2017, she graduated with a degree in Political Science in UP Diliman. Formerly a legal intern for the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, she now works for the Commission on Human Rights – Child Rights Center and the Ateneo Human Rights Center.

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